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  #11  
Old 08-01-2007
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Loading is actually regulated by the classification society by whom the ship is certified; ABS, Det Norske Veritas.etc... Those groups will issue her load line along with winter and fresh water marks. The various "marks" account for weather and physical conditions that may make it safe or unsafe to carry more, or less, cargo.

The ships are not loaded for any "windows". The load lines are painted on the side of the hull amidships.

The capsizings you saw were mostly in port, due to improper loading. Usually, in today's methods of stowing cargo, it is a computer "error" that causes such, with the stability plan not being double checked by ship's personnel. When this happens to freighters they just roll over (just?); tankers break in two, right at the dock.

Weather routing is used by all major shipping lines, the only problem being that the route virtually never is staying in port. At some times of the year, in some waters, you're just going to get knocked about.
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  #12  
Old 08-01-2007
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Sailaway,

Are those ships lost at sea much?

- CD
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  #13  
Old 08-01-2007
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CD,
Much the same as for the sailor, the merchant mariner's biggest fear is fire. Even on a ship built to the highest classification society standards a fire can easily get out of control. Fortunately catastrophic fires are not very common.

Most ships, of all types, are lost through grounding. Not including those groundings which are a part of the Greek ship recycling program, most groundings should not happen. Poor navigation technique is generally responsible. To use the well known Exxon Valdez incident for example; the Third Mate on watch had doubts as to his position. The ability to live with navigational doubts is above the pay grade of the Third Mate. That's what Captains are for, and failing that, Chief Mates. He called neither. My standing and night orders always stated, in writing, to call me before it was a problem. The same is true for collision avoidance. In confined waters, or waters with a large volume of traffic, the Captain will generally be on the bridge. He may not have the conn and may come and go, but he's keeping an eye on things. It is also not uncommon to call out another Mate just for radar watch in restricted visibility.

Heavy weather, of course, always attracts one's attention. I've never been on a ship that I felt was in danger of being lost. Tankers are virtually unsinkable and inherently stable due to the nature of their cargo. Occasionally one will break up at sea, most often encountering freak seas. The SE coast of Africa, at Good Hope, is probably the most notorious for this due to the meeting of the Agulhas current and the Cape rollers. Around the Cape is the only practical way for the large tankers to reach Europe and the US Gulf Coast. It is probably the large volume of tanker traffic more than the frequency of freak conditions that makes the area notorious.

The advent of containerization alleviated a major cause of ship loss in heavy weather; cargo shifting. When you get rolling upwards of 35 degrees any cargo securing deficiencies will become apparent. And, at that point, it is too late to do anything about it. Say you've got a 70 ton locomotive secured as deck cargo. The sum total of the lashings securing it are not sufficient for, say, lifting the locomotive. Their function, along with proper dunnage, is to prevent the locomotive from moving. Once it starts to move, if the lashings are not immediately tightened, it's going to start parting lashings and then it's going to go wherever it damn well pleases. Contrary to popular belief, the biggest practical problem most ship's have is not acquiring too much stability. Loading a ship does not consist of just putting the heavy stuff down low. Rolling in excess of thirty degrees is rather common and safe if the ship is not too stable. Snap rolls of a stiff ship will literally break machinery lose from it's bed plates; of course the cargo is already adrift at this point. With heavier cargoes in the 'tween decks, a shifting of that cargo will cause the ship to take a list. If she takes a 10 degree list to port that becomes her new center of stability. If her deck edge immerses at 50 degrees, the point of maximum stability as well as, the point of diminishing stability, that deck edge immersion will now be at forty degrees roll to port. Synchronous rolling and further cargo shifting may result in a capsize.

Containerships alleviated much of this as each little bundle, 30 tons or so, of cargo is secured in it's container. It's difficult to have a large cargo shift. The weakness to containerization comes in ship handling. The containers ship will probably be hove to long before the old style freighter, even though she has substantially more freeboard. Her large sail area makes her difficult to handle in high winds. Most ships though will heave to with the seas on the quarter, where they will roll deeply but safely. The reason you see so little actual cargo in those photos is that the fifth and sixth tiers of containers are usually empties.

So no, those ships are not lost much. Weather routing has helped a great deal as well. The average speed of a merchant ship is 17 knots and tha't often adequate to run from weather. Just as with a sail boat, the best lifeboat is the ship you're already in. Most ship abandonments are done for fire. I've seen quite a bit of heavy weather, none that made me think I'd be off in the lifeboat! Same rule applies; step up into the lifeboat/raft. What will sink a containership is when she loses a hatch cover. None of the photos show that having happened from what I see. All the containers on the hatch are lashed to the hatch, and in severe conditions, they'll go over as one unit, leaving a huge gaping hole on deck. It's fairly routine to sustain heavy weather damage of the ship, but rare that it is severe. I was on one ship that had her starboard bridge wing bent up, about 5 degrees, the ship had a forward house. I don't think they ever did get around to bending it back horizontal! I think it happened in a North Pacific gale with 25 foot swells and she caught one on about a forty degree roll. Nobody was too sure exactly because the Third Mate and Able-bodied Seaman were laying on deck in a pile precipitated by the coffe percolator launching itself horizontally with velocity.(g) They both saw it coming, tried to avoid it, ran in to each other, the pot hit 'em both square, spilling scalding coffee all over them and the deck. The next severe roll saw all three fetch up against the starboard bulkhead- so they only tangentially "saw" the bridge wing get bent. The Captain actually drew their attention to it, when he came up for a cup of coffee. He wasn't happy; about not only the lack of fresh coffee, but his bridge wing! (lol)
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  #14  
Old 08-01-2007
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Sailaway-

Thanks for the detailed explanation.
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  #15  
Old 08-02-2007
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WOw sailaway. Very informative. I have never been on a merchant ship. SOunds very interesting.

- CD
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  #16  
Old 08-04-2007
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If you're in port, can get into the yard area, just walk down to the gangway, ask for the mate on watch and a tour if he's not too busy. Your chances are better if the ship isn't working cargo and there is only one or two of you. Your chances are even better if one of the two has large breasts and, possibly, a certain "morally casual" attitude! (yet another Animal House line!)Just kidding. Look for the Stars and Stripes on the stern.
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Old 08-04-2007
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Thanks SA

very good detail and explanantion...
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